Dr. Harvey’s are longtime sponsors of this blog, and it is clear that we believe in what they are doing. Over the past few years, their food and supplements have made a significant impact on our dogs overall health.
As such we thought it would be great to speak with the man behind the company – to gain a better understanding of his philosophy, and what it has been like being a pioneer in the holistic pet food space.
If you are interested in trying out Dr. Harvey’s dog food for yourself, make sure to take advantage of our exclusive 10% discount code “MDL1231″ and feel free to reach out to us or Dr. Harvey himself if you have any questions about their products!
Now, lets get right down to it!
14 Questions with Dr. Harvey Cohen
Tell us about your background and training.
More than 30 years ago now, I was a human nutritionist and chiropractor with a busy practice in New York City. I was a lifelong animal lover, and I knew something about the pet industry was flat out broken. And even more shocking for me was my realization that nobody was trying to fix it!
What led you into the pet food business?
My human patients kept coming to me and asking me about their beloved pets and their ailments. This was in the early ‘80’s. I began to research what pet food was really made of and I was appalled. I made it my mission to call out the pet food industry and teach pet parents a better way to feed their pets to keep them healthy. I knew that dog food was deplete of proper nutrition and that dogs need fresh, whole foods to thrive. As a human herbalist, I felt comfortable moving into using herbs for healing with dogs and cats. That is the basis of our supplements which are very popular and highly effective.
How did you get started, and what (if any) resistance did you face from the industry as a whole?
At first, I developed a recipe and I gave it out to my patients for their dogs. It was a homemade food, made with real, fresh ingredients. I began lecturing to all kinds of groups of animal lovers about nutrition and that started a lecture tour that took me all over the US, Canada and the world. There has always been resistance to the idea of feeding fresh food to animals and there still is.
The idea of feeding real food did not then and still doesn’t sit well with dog food makers of kibbled food. Kibble is a cheap and unhealthy, but highly profitable way to feed dogs and cats. Highly successful marketing has lead pet parents and veterinarians to believe that the only food that pets should eat is pet food. They have a built-in audience and an almost infinite customer base. They market the idea that pet food is scientific and balanced and contains everything an animal needs to stay healthy. This could not be further from the truth as evidenced by the rise in diseases that are acquired and degenerative in our canine and feline populations. Many of these diseases are caused by this inferior and denatured food that is relentlessly fed to our pet population for their entire lives.
Explain your feelings on the connection between food and overall health.
“Health begins in the kitchen”, are the words that I live by and that I teach. Food is only second to love, when it comes to caring for our pets. Food is the best medicine and it is the stuff that builds a healthy life. Feeding real whole foods to dogs and cats is the key to maintaining good health. There is no commercial kibble or canned food that can be substituted for real whole fresh food. It is terribly sad that these foods are what most of our dogs and cats are fed. It has led to a terrible rise of kidney disease, cancer, arthritis and allergies in our pet population.
Can you tell us about an early success story – where you knew that you were on the right path?
I always knew I was on the right path because I knew what I was teaching was correct, sound and important information.
The progression of the growth of our company has been slow and pardon the pun, organic. We have always kept to our mission to offer the healthiest, products available anywhere. We have never taken outside investing so we never had millions of dollars for marketing. We also have not had to answer to anyone who wanted us to make a decision based on profitability instead of health.
During the over 30 years we have been making our products the industry has evolved. Awareness among pet parents has improved. Pet parents have become more demanding about quality and from those demands, an entire natural and organic pet industry has emerged. We were pioneers. We spoke of feeding natural long before it was a trend or an industry. People thought I was crazy that I cared so much about what went into “dog food.”
A Family Business
Some of these recent developments are good and have led some companies to offer better options for pet parents, but not everything that is labeled “natural” is really natural. There was never a moment when I knew that we were going to have a successful business. In the beginning it was a tremendous struggle. We just kept making our products and speaking our truth. When the internet came into the picture everything changed. We could have a voice without having the millions of dollars that the big boy pet food companies had. It leveled the playing field somewhat and gave smaller companies a seat at the table. We just kept doing our thing and through word of mouth and all of our success stories we gained our very loyal customer base. And while we are still a very small player in the pet industry, pet parents who know about Dr. Harvey’s are grateful and very thankful for the work that we do. We are trusted and that means everything to me.
As proponents of fresh and natural foods, what would you say to the person who says that kibble is “scientifically formulated” and therefore best for dogs?
In the fifties women were told that formula that was scientifically formulated was best for feeding babies. We now know that you cannot replicate breast milk and synthetic formula is not as healthy as what nature intended babies to thrive on. We know now that cow’s milk is for cows and human milk is for human babies. We know that what comes from nature is always best for the body, be it a human body or a canine or feline body. We know that dogs that eat kibble can survive but they will not thrive. For me feeding kibble to a dog every day is like feeding your child cheerios at every meal.
There’s a lot of conflicting information about raw food diets and their overall safety for people and their pets. What are some common misconceptions about this type of diet?
Most dogs and cats can do very well on a raw food diet. The misconceptions come from the vets who don’t understand it and are pushing the industry’s kibbled brands. I have seen amazing changes in unhealthy dogs when they are switched to a raw diet.
Many pet parents are under the impression that dogs should be eating the same thing every single day. What is your philosophy on rotating proteins and oils?
Dogs need variety that is how you get a truly balanced diet. Feeding the same protein every day can cause allergies as well. Each protein is slightly different offering a different set of amino acids, by rotating proteins your pet will have the natural balance that it needs to maintain the best of health.
Your supplement line is derived from whole food sources, as opposed to synthetically isolated vitamins and minerals. Can you tell us why this is important?
The body absorbs the nutrients from whole foods more efficiently. It is always better to get our nutrition from foods. The body knows the difference between naturally occurring vitamins and those that are synthetic. We use herbs in our formulations that have a gentle yet powerfully positive effect on health. We have been making supplements with whole foods and healing herbs for over 30 years. These supplements have helped thousands of pet parents to keep their companions balanced and healthy.
What do you see as some of the most concerning things about the state of the pet food industry today?
The pet industry at large is still filled with products that are dangerous and unhealthy for animals. The myth that a diet made of kibble is healthy for dogs and cats is still accepted as truth in this industry. This is the thing that concerns me the most. Although there are now many spokespeople including holistic veterinarians that are speaking out about how important a real whole food diet, they are still being overshadowed by the big players in the pet industry. While the “idea” of natural feeding has touched the mainstream, it is simply not enough to make a real difference in the health of our animal population. It is still up to the individual pet parent to educate themselves and learn how to feed and care for their pets in a truly healthful way.
Whether they are ready to make the switch to Dr. Harvey’s or not, what are some simple ways that all dog owners can improve the health of their companion animals?
Just adding vegetables to the diet can be helpful. Feeding a few meals each week that are made of whole foods and no commercial kibble. Avoiding chemicals and foods and treats that are full of additives and preservatives.
The interesting thing is that we have complete control over what we feed our animals so why not give them the healthiest foods and treats available?
What are your goals/hopes for the future of Dr. Harvey’s?
Our goals remain the same as they have been for over 30 years. We work every day to educate pet parents about the benefits of feeding real, whole foods to their companions. We urge people to avoid chemicals and preservatives that are found in so many pet products. We teach people to think about how to keep their companions healthy and to increase longevity.
Anything exciting in the pipeline?
Yes, always. We are working on a new food that we will launch this spring. This will be a food that will help people to make complete raw diets for their dogs. We are very excited about this launch. We want to offer ease and peace of mind to pet parents who want to transition to a raw diet but may be fearful that feeding a raw diet will be difficult both to execute and to make complete. This new food will address all of those concerns. It’s very exciting.
In addition, we continue to work on our “solutions foods”. We are very excited about what we are seeing from dogs on Paradigm and ketogenic diets. This food is being used for dogs with cancer, diabetes and neurological disorders as well as for healthy dogs. We are very pleased with the results we are seeing.
We also offer solutions to dogs with Kidney issues, an all too common problem in our canine population.
We also continue to expand our supplement offerings. We listen to our customers and work to provide for the needs of their companions.
We are constantly researching and looking for the healthiest solutions.
How can our readers reach you if they have questions on your products or pet nutrition in general?
Through our website www.drharveys.com, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and by email at [email protected] We love corresponding with our customers and fans. We are very responsive and are always here to help. Folks can also call us directly. We still answer our own phones!